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wimming garments exist for a reason. Water has a nasty habit of burrowing its way into any permeable substance it comes across, saturating it, and substantially increasing its weight. Furthermore, the pesky liquid uses pressure and density to greatly inhibit movement.

With that in consideration, Nimbus pondered, swimming in armor was a terrible idea.

It was true. Waterlogged or no, metal armor weighs more than water, and Nimbus was finding his hindered buoyancy problematic. This wasn’t the first time he had escaped the reservoir while armor-clad (thankfully, his armor was relatively thin and light), but it was the first time he was trying to carry something.

The medium length sword in his hand was cumbersome underwater, a great detriment to his mobility. It was with herculean effort that he broke the surface, sloshed to the edge of the pool, and crawled to the cavern floor.

“If you’ve got your magic wand, Shellfish, we need to get a move on.” Gilgamesh tapped the floor with an iron-spiked boot. Talos, their injured ally, was slung over Gilgamesh’s shoulder.

“It’s a sword.” Nimbus looked down at the long, jagged, black blade, it’s shape vaguely reminiscent of a lightning bolt. “How’s Talos?”

“He might live if we get him back to the Sanctuary.”

“I-I’m sorry. I wish had I remembered the security spell on my sword sooner.”

“You can apologize all you want later. C’mon.”

Wisely, Nimbus and Gilgamesh decided to leave the buckets of water behind until later, traveling light as they ran through the tunnels. Gilgamesh barreled ahead, left around a twist, right down a bend. Nimbus had walked this route twice before, but without guidance he would have been hopelessly lost.

How long has Gilgamesh been down here that he knows these tunnels so well? Nimbus watched Talos’ head bob limply, bouncing like a cabbage in a rickety cart. I can’t believe I did that to him. If we die here, it’s on me. My sword ruined everything.

A howl echoed through the caves. To one who knew nothing of the howl’s implications, the eerie tone would have inspired the dread of the unknown, the terror of the obscured. The mind would attempt to rationalize, to dismiss, but it couldn’t. The mind would forge its own fears from ignorance, shades that would haunt the shadows of consciousness, demons that would skulk in the periphery of the imagination. Nimbus, however, knew exactly what the howl heralded; to him, it carried all the gravity of a death knell. It would not be long before the bloodwolves arrived.

Gilgamesh stopped for a moment, shifted Talos to his other shoulder, and unfastened the spear from his back. “Stay alert, Shellfish. We’re not alone.”

With that, he took off again. Gilgamesh was fast, even while carrying Talos. Nimbus was starting to get winded from the running. Wonderful. Just in case the situation wasn’t dangerous enough. I wonder if I can manage to twist my ankle too? You know, to completely ensure my demise. It was at that moment Gilgamesh threw Talos at him. Nimbus had scarcely any time to react; he staggered and barely managed to avoid falling.

In the same swift motion in which he had discarded his compatriot, Gilgamesh swung his spear forward, impaling the bloodwolf that had suddenly emerged from a side passage. The wolf yelped and pulled back, growling. Blood dripped from its shoulder.

Nimbus didn’t have time to watch what happened next. He fumbled to set Talos down as quickly as possible without smacking his friend’s head against the wall. As he propped Talos up against a stone, he heard yells and grunts from both Gilgamesh and the wolf. Drawing his sword, Nimbus turned to face the commotion just in time to see the hindquarters of the bloodwolf disappear around the corner.

“Why’d you set him down!” Gilgamesh shouted.

“I thought we were going to stop and fi—”

Nimbus was cut short as Gilgamesh shoved him aside, grabbed Talos by the shirt, and began hauling him down the tunnel as fast as he could.

“This is the last time I go on a water run with you! If we aren’t cut off from the Sanctuary we keep going!”

They had hardly traveled 30 feet before another bloodwolf appeared ahead of them. Without hesitation, Gilgamesh dropped Talos and fended off an attack with his spear, stopping the beast’s jaws with the shaft.

Nimbus took a sharp breath as Talos’ head struck the stone floor. “Don’t just drop him!”

“Listen, Shellfish,” The bloodwolf still had its mouth clamped down on the spear shaft as it grappled with Gilgamesh. “the wolves kill us, Talos dies. We get to the Sanctuary, Talos might live.” Gilgamesh kicked the wolf in the chest, causing it to release its hold and stagger back. Without hesitation, Gilgamesh ran the beast through. “Being gentle puts him in more danger. That’s how it is down here. Learn to prioritize,” He planted his foot against the dead wolf, and yanked his weapon free. “or learn to die.”

“Oy vey.” Croaked a voice. “I retract my previous statement, Gil. That is the reason you have no friends.”

“Talos!” Nimbus exclaimed.

“Hey, Nimbus.” Talos shakily pushed himself into a sitting position, leaning against the wall. “Your sword packs a punch.”

“I’m so sorry… I didn’t know—”

“Behind you!” Gilgamesh shouted.

Nimbus turned to see a bloodwolf lunging at him, mouth contorted into a savage snarl. He barely got his sword up in time, slashing at the creature’s snout. Unfortunately, this did nothing to stop the monster’s momentum. The wolf collided with him and pinned him to the ground. Nimbus swung his sword awkwardly from the side, but due to his vulnerable position he was unable to use much force, only enraging the wolf further. The bloodwolf opened its jaws and dove for the throat.

The butt of a spear swung suddenly into view, intercepted the bloodwolf’s head, and stunned the beast with a heavy thud. Nimbus took the advantage to push the wolf off himself, scramble to his feet, and stab at the beast’s flank. A satisfying pulse of electricity ran through the blade, and the wolf yelped, jumped back, and fled down the tunnel from which he had come, nose and side bleeding.

“Thanks.” Nimbus turned back to face Gilgamesh and Talos. “I need to figure out how this sword works.”

Gilgamesh ignored the comment and addressed Talos. “Can you haul your own weight.”

“Agh, I don’t know.” Talos tried to push himself to a standing position, leaning against the wall, but collapsed. “My leg hurts so bad… and that’s not the only thing. My stomach… Maybe in a few minutes.”

“We need to go now. Come on.” Gilgamesh pulled Talos up, supporting him with his left arm.

“Ow! Ow! Ow!”

“Shut up. Nimbus?”

Nimbus took Talos’ other side, and together they hobbled Talos along as fast as they could manage, stopping briefly for Gilgamesh to dispatch more bloodwolves. He is really good at this, Nimbus contemplated, I wonder who he was before he wound up here. Who were Stinger and Talos? For that matter, who was I?

“Not far, now.” Gilgamesh said.

Just then, a heavy blow struck Nimbus from behind, and everyone pitched forward onto the floor. Chaos ensued. Nimbus couldn’t follow what was going on, what with the flailing of his allies and the wolf that had assaulted them. Everything was fur and limbs, rage and fear, cries and growls. He felt claws scrape against his armor. Something struck him on the head. Finally, he managed to scramble out of the kerfuffle just as Gilgamesh was beating the wolf off himself with his fists and his hand ax. The wolf whimpered and retreated to lick its wounds, but the victory was short-lived. Three more wolves rushed in from behind.

The wolves growled and crept slowly forward, their combined width nearly filling the tunnel. Gilgamesh, without taking his eyes off his enemies, slowly lifted Talos to his feet and handed him off to Nimbus. “We can’t outrun them. The Sanctuary is just ahead, down the tunnel on the right. Take Talos. I’ll handle them.”

“You can’t beat three of them!” Nimbus hesitantly stepped back, noticing a fresh bite mark on Talos’ shoulder.

“Maybe I can.”

“C’mon, Gil—”

“Shut up, Talos! Nimbus, get him out of here! Bolt! Scram! Clear out!”

I can’t believe all this is happening because of my stupid sword! I—What? Suddenly, Nimbus’ mind was filled with a strange sensation. It snapped through him like a jolt of electricity and set his spine tingling. He could feel power, raw and untamed, crackling. Nimbus felt as though he was standing in the middle of a thunderstorm, surrounded by furious energy, unfathomable might, unbridled destruction. Then, suddenly, the power seemed to compose itself, to focus. It awaited a command, his command. All this happened in an instant, and suddenly Nimbus knew what to do. He lift his sword and pointed it at the wolves. “Get down!”

Gilgamesh barely moved in time; a bolt of lightning tore through the tunnel and smote the bloodwolves. It leaped wildly from wolf to wolf, filling the tunnel with shimmering luminescence. Shadows danced across the walls, the extreme, flickering glare casting them as distinct and vivid.

It was over. The smell of ozone filled the air. One wolf limped away, another ran, yet another didn’t move at all. Nimbus blinked, trying to clear the purple blotches the light had made in his eyes. His legs felt weak and wobbly as he leaned against a wall.

“I really need to figure out how this sword works.”

7 March 2015

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